Wallingford may use existing student survey to ask about homelessness

Wallingford may use existing student survey to ask about homelessness

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WALLINGFORD — Although the Board of Education declined to participate in a state survey on youth homelessness, questions on the subject may be rolled into an existing risk assessment survey.

Karen Hlavac, school board chairwoman, said the board rejected the survey at a subcommittee meeting Jan. 7 for two main reasons.

The board wanted to give parents an opportunity to look at the survey—which they are entitled to under the school district policy on surveys—and because of student privacy concerns, since the survey contained questions of a personal nature and was slated to be given during lunch in the cafeteria, she said.

Mike Votto, school board member, said he objected to questions that seemed inappropriate, including those about race, ethnicity, gender and HIV status. He added that the school district can include some questions on the current risk assessment survey.

Aimee Turner, pupil personnel services director, presented information on the statewide survey to the board.

She said at the meeting that the goal of the survey—for high school students ages 16-20—would have been to identify teens and young adults experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

It would give the state current data on Wallingford’s needs, whether it’s for housing, food, access to jobs or transportation.

After the meeting, Turner said she was in favor of gathering data on homelessness among Wallingford students, as was Tony Loomis, the wellness curriculum coordinator and director of school counselors.

“Relatively speaking, our students complete a large number of surveys,” Loomis said via email. “For example, a climate survey just went out. If we over-survey our students we risk our students become jaded to taking surveys and validity may suffer. It would be better to include this topic as part of a survey that is already being conducted.”

A collaborative team of several state agencies and youth-serving organizations called the Youth Engagement Team Initiative created the survey.

Mary Anne Haley, Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness deputy director, said that more than 200 school districts have participated in the voluntary and anonymous survey over the past three years. A statewide youth outreach and homeless count is done the last week of January.

Haley said that Wallingford is part of a region that includes Meriden and some towns in Middlesex County.

“It would be great to have them on board,” Haley said about Wallingford. “If the Board of Education doesn’t want to do it in-school, they can do the survey outside the school, where youth convene,” such as the library.

This year’s youth survey is still being finalized, but past surveys are available at www.cceh.org/pit/data-and-reports.

Some questions on the survey are mandated by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, other were created by the team with input from homeless youth.

Haley said student are asked questions about race, sexual orientation and gender identity because “there’s significant evidence that says LGBTQ and youth of color are more highly represented in the homeless youth population.”

“Youth are a more invisible population,” Haley said. “We want to be able to capture the disproportionality for youth of color and gender-nonconforming youth, because if we’re going to create systems to end youth homelessness, we need to understand its origins and the things that created the circumstances that youth become homeless.”

Gov. Ned Lamont’s office announced Tuesday that the Connecticut Department of Housing is releasing $1.1 million in additional funding through its current operating budget to support the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.

The flexible assistance funding complements a $2.5 million donation to the Coalition that was announced late last year by the Day 1 Families Fund, a philanthropic effort led by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, according to a statement.

Twitter: @LCTakores

Read the 2019 Youth Outreach and Count Survey.